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Archive for the tag “church growth”

THE HAND AND HEART OF GOD….by Robert Beike

“There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

(Acts 2:5 HCSB)

     A Hebrew mid-wife, at the birth of  a child, would crush grapes or dates with her finger and then rub that finger inside the mouth of a newborn to create a thirst or hunger for grapes or dates. (James Merritt, Friends, Foes and Fools: Broadman & Holman, 1997 p. 172)  God created a thirst for the nations in the newborn church in Jerusalem through its Spirit animated witness to an international multitude at Pentecost. In this way, our heavenly father was teaching “a youth about the way he should go,” so that “even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 HCSB). From day one in the life of the church, there has been instilled an international thirst, and an ethnic flavor. It was as if the church was born with an international spoon in its mouth.

     The reason Jesus had them wait in Jerusalem was now clear–the pieces of the puzzle fit together to reveal  the hand and heart of God working in perfect harmony.  Jerusalem was not only the strategic and spiritual center of Jewish life, it was also the strategic and spiritual center of God’s plan for world evangelism. The coming of the Holy Spirit coincided perfectly with the presence of “devout men from every nation under heaven.”  The ethnic mix that God had gathered for a harvest celebration is described in Acts 2:8-11. These were people born elsewhere–representatives of the Mediterranean world. Many were now permanent residents of Jerusalem, but many others were in the city temporarily for the festival of Pentecost.

     It is hard to miss the divine intentionality of this event. The hand and heart of God was in heavenly concert producing a multi-national church and supplying that church with a pattern for fulfilling its purpose. God has always been a people mover, ever active in human history and the accomplishing of heaven’s redemptive plans. Gathering and sending, casting out and bringing in, impelling believers to go, compelling unbelievers to come, the Lord is the author of diversity and the architect of disbursement (Genesis 11).  Like the vinyl recordings of another era, the great commission has two sides. The flip side of the church going to the nations is God gathering the nations in proximity to the church.

     Because the heart of God desires that no one perishes but all come to repentance (1 Peter 3:9), the hand of God continually draws lines that connect the people of God with the people who need God. In God’s providence, your city, community, and possibly your neighborhood is becoming a rich tapestry of ethnic hues, hand crafted by a loving God. As you share your faith, and God’s love, you can make a world of difference without ever leaving home.

Rattle Those Pots and Pans…………by Robert Beike

“And every day they devoted themselves (to meeting) together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,…” (Acts 2:46 HCSB, parenthesis mine)

The rattle of pots and pans, the clanking of dishes, and the aroma of food, are important ingredients in Christian fellowship. We often joke about eating meetings, and the ever-present fried chicken, but the breaking of bread has a way of binding us together. Moreover, hospitality has a prominent Biblical precedent, and roots deep in the human experience.

The Old Testament records Abraham hosting a trio of heavenly guests who had serious business in Sodom and Gomorrah. Before continuing their mission, they enjoyed the riches of fellowship over a wood-fired steak with all the trimmings. Jesus experienced hospitality as a guest on many occassions, and practiced hospitality with the disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. Upon His resurrection, Jesus revealed His identity to incredulous followers during a meal in Emmaus, and while hosting a fish fry on the beach. Bread and “The Bread of Life” seems to just go together. Its not surprising, then, that the disciples continued the custom of sharing the life of Christ around a meal.

A contagious kind of joy accompanied the gatherings of the first church as “they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” There was no pretense to their joy. They were sincerely glad they had Jesus, the word, each other, and the power of God in their lives.

Hospitality might be the most underutilized gift in the North American church. There are, likely, members in every church, and small group or class, that are wired to be gracious hosts, and/or who would be glad to cook for the kingdom of God. Hospitality is putting grace to work. It’s about giving purpose to the “pot-luck.” Let’s get together and share a little gladness. Rattle those pots and pans.

VITAL ATTRACTION…..by Robert Beike

“…praising God and having favor with all the people. and every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47 HCSB)

In this era of “missional” resurgence, it has become fashionable to discredit “attractional” ministries. Yet, both “come and see” and “go and be” activities made a healthy combo that super-sized the early church. Both are needed, and the gathered church, and the scattered church, must have one vital quality–be attractive! Unless the church is attractive to others, it will be repulsive, or simply ignored. Christians must be good news as well as share good news. Churches that grow have a magnetic personality.

The vital attraction of the Jerusalem Believers went beyond the superficial and cosmetic. Light attracts, love is compelling, joy is contagious, and generosity is beautiful. Its no surprise they were “having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” In their daily lives they displayed an unexplainable power, demonstrated an undeniable purity, declared an unmistakable message, dispensed an unconditional love, and were devoted to a Savior that is unequalled. Recognizing that the gospel is always filtered through flawed human beings (the Jerusalem Church was no exception), and the offensive nature of the cross, nevertheless, there was a winsomeness to their preaching and witnessing that God blessed, and added to their number.

On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is a portrait with this inscription:

“James Butler Bonham–no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by his family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.”

While no literal portrait of Jesus exists, His likeness has been placed in the world for all to see, in the lives of His followers. The church is only attractive when it looks like Christ.

VELCRO CHURCH……………………..by Robert Beike

“Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as everyone had a need.”

ACTS 2:44-45 (HCSB)

Many churches seem to have a Teflon-like non-stick coating. First time guests don’t stick around and members seem to slip out the back door without much notice. Not so the first church of Jerusalem. Their fellowship was more like Velcro.

The word Velcro is a combination of the two French words velours and crochet, meaning “velvet” and “hook.” This hook-and-loop fastener was invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. It consists of two components: lineal fabric strips that feature tiny hooks on one side, and even smaller loops on the other. When pressed together the hooks catch in the loops and the two pieces form a tight bond. Separating the two Velcro strips creates a distinctive “ripping” sound. (Wikipedia.org, “Velcro”)

These new believers in Jerusalem formed a Velcro kind of connection as available resources hooked to pressing needs. It was the kind of uncommon connection that “had everything in common.” This was not a “communistic” effort to redistribute wealth, and create an artificial equality, by taking from the “haves” to give to the “have-nots.” Instead, it was a genuine Christian community, caring for one another, and fleshing out the life of Christ in real servanthood. This was a family of believers putting others’ needs ahead of their own. They not only shared the word of God, but also, their worldly goods. They practiced what was preached.

Velcro churches are easy to spot. They stand out like cities on a hill. Authentic friendships replace superficial “friendliness.” Members carry ropes to rescue and not rocks to condemn. Meeting physical and spiritual needs is normal behavior for all members. Loving relationships create a kind of warm incubator conducive to safety and spiritual health. Connections in Velcro churches are so tight that if they are separated, for whatever reason, its as if they are being “ripped” apart.

LET MY PEOPLE GO!….by Robert Beike

You have probably experienced riding along in your automobile, making good time, visions of your destination dancing in your head, when you begin to see the ominous red glare of tail lights, and traffic soon rolls to a stop. You inch forward, hoping for a breakout, but none comes. So, you sit, and steam, and grow frustrated, until in desperation, you begin to look for an available exit. This is not what you anticipated. It’s not what you planned for when you turned those ignition keys and began your journey.

Such experiences on our highways might be a necessary nuisance, but similar scenarios in our churches can become unnecessary tragedies. Sadly, many churches suffer from people gridlock. God is calling people to a high-octane adventure, a journey of spiritual growth, service, and mission. Yet, far too many are stymied by ecclesiastical bottlenecks leading to spiritual stagnation. Believers find themselves sitting, steaming, and frustrated. Consequently, they are taking exit ramps in alarming numbers, traveling alternate routes that lead into spiritual cul de sacs.

Most churches, unwittingly, are structured to hinder, rather than harness the power of God’s people. Instead of systems and strategies to help people discover and deploy their God-giftedness and purpose, church structures have become strictures that tether people to the church building, and Sunday/Wednesday activities. Their “mission” is to serve as vendors for the consumers who show up to partake of the programs offered. Worse, they may be relegated to the role of consumer themselves, tuned in to that popular station w.i.i.f.m. (what’s in it for me).

God may be saying to His church, as he did to Pharoah, “Let My People Go!” Pastors chronically lament a worker shortage, and that 20% of the membership does 80% of the work. But, that could be good news. Maybe doing “church” as is only requires 20% of  the workforce. That leaves 80% to be released into God’s harvest field to be the church.

What process does your church have to transform its membership into missionaries? Is there an intentional equipping of people to study the word for themselves, pray effectively, share their faith, and utilize their giftedness and skill sets? Let God’s people go to where they live, work, play, and go to schoo,l to demonstrate the love of God. Encourage them to be the church wherever they go, to be good news to whoever they meet, and to engage their world in ways that makes God smile, and makes a world of difference.

Obedience to Christ mandates every believer fleshing out the great commission with their God-given gifts and resources. Reaching our neighborhoods and the next towns will remain forever elusive unless the church releases the ordinary Christians God is calling to do the extraordinary task of loving their neighbors to Christ.

The 10 Most Important People in Your Church on Sunday…by Robert Beike

1. Guests — Are newcomers treated as visitors who may come and go, or as guests who are expected, planned for, and made to feel welcome?

2. Greeters and Ushers — Smiles are the most cost effective outreach tools a church can employ. The first 4 minutes a guest is on your property are the most critical. What kind of impression are you making? Is your attitude saying, “stay away,” or “come and stay?”

3. Custodial Workers — Is your facility clean and uncluttered, especially in the ladies restroom and nursery?

4. Nursery and Children’s Workers — Are parents confident their children are well cared for and safe?

5. Sunday School/Small Group Workers — Are all attendees valued and made to feel welcome? Is God’s word being taught for transformation and not just information?

6. People who sit next to new people — Are new people ignored or included? Are they introduced to others and their comfort considered?

7. Worship Leader(s) — Is there warmth and enthusiasm? Are the people engaged in authentic worship, escorted into the presence of God?

8. People who sing — This includes the congregation as well as singers of special music. Are they smiling? is there joy? Genuineness?

9. Pastor — It’s no mistake that the pastor is so far down on the list. Unless the first eight are positive influences the pastor’s role is extremely difficult. Still, the pastor can make a huge difference. Is he engaging and people friendly? Does he handle God’s word with integrity? Does he communicate God’s truth clearly?

10. Follow-up Person(s) — Is appreciation for guests’ attendance expressed? Is an invitation for further involvement extended? Are questions adequately answered? The first 48 hours following the service is critical in securing their further participation.

 

20 Ways Your Church Can Be a Church Planting Personnel Partner….by Robert Beike

Church planting is hard work. There are a myriad of things that need to be done and, in most cases, few people to do them. In addition to spiritual energy, know-how, and money, human energy is a necessary ingredient for starting churches. Church planters need other “missionaries” to come alongside, roll up their sleeves, and help shoulder the load. Here are 20 ways your church can be a church planting personnel partner.

 

1. Provide short-term “missionaries” to help with music, child care, greeters, etc.

2. Help the planter in the relocation process (locating property, moving furniture, etc)

3. Provide a list of community entities, activities, and contacts.

4. Provide help with website development.

5. Provide opportunities for planter to preach & share at your church.

6. Provide office space and amenities, secretarial and/or administration help.

7. Attend appropriate functions of new congregation.

8. Provide a social and spiritual support system.

9. Pray.

10. Send mission teams for outreach projects, Vacation Bible School, etc.

11. Help with identifying & locating people groups, population segments, etc.

12. Enlist participants in $46 mission trips. Each person takes 100 names from the phone book, directory, or focus group list, 100 envelopes, and 100 prewritten letters. Purchase 100 stamps, address, stuff, stamp, and mail the envelopes. The pray for those 100 names for 100 days.

13. Enlist a team of “telemissionaries” who phone individuals/households from the focus group/area, inviting them to a specific function of the new church.

14. Send prayer walking teams.

15. Conduct a block party, assist in food drives and other “point-of-need” events with the new congregation.

16. Guidance with local school system(s).

17. Help with or provide locations for fellowships, gathering events, retreats, etc.

18. Provide opportunities and appropriate chaperones for children or youth functions.

19. Sunday School classes could adopt the new work and participate in projects on its behalf.

20. Assist the Church Planter/new church in advancing its strategy.

12 WAYS YOUR CHURCH CAN BE A CHURCH PLANTING PRAYER PARTNER…by Robert Beike

Every new church needs the same 4 ingredients; God, energy, know-how, and money. Starting a new church requires hard work, at least some knowledge, and at some point money, but without the spiritual ingredient it all falls flat, or is of the flesh. That is why every new church plant needs prayer partners. The church moves forward on its knees. Here are 12 practical ways your church can be a church planting prayer partner.

1. Establish and develop an intercessory prayer team to pray for the new church, church planter, and family.

2.  Give opportunity for the church planter to personally share prayer concerns.

3.  Conduct prayer walks and prayer drives on behalf of new church.

4.  Pray specifically for the new church during worship services, small groups, prayer meetings, etc.

5.  Provide the names of those committed to pray to the planter for ongoing communication.

6.  Write cards of encouragement to the planter and family.

7.  Send birthday cards to the planter and family.

8.  Distribute prayer cards, magnets, etc with the planter’s family photo and birthdays.

9.  Distribute the planter’s monthly newsletter to the congregation.

10. Practice “blanket praying” for the target community or focus group to be reached. (Enlist as many intercessors as possible to pray for a set period of time to warm up the community or people group to the gospel).

11. Practice “tag team” praying. (Enlist different church members to pray on a designated day of the week, so each day is covered).

12. List prayer needs of the new church on your church’s website.

20 WAYS A CHURCH CAN BE A PRIMARY CHURCH PLANTING PARTNER…by Robert Beike

If you are seeking to maximize the spiritual impact in a community or among a people group, consider planting a church. There are a number of ways a church can partner in starting a new church, but the most significant way is as a primary sponsor. Here are 20 practical ways a church can be a primary church planting partner.

 

1. Provide an intercessory prayer team to lead in praying for the new church.

2. Provide liabilty insurance and legal standing.

3. Provide administrative support, such as secretary, treasurer, record keeping, copying, etc.

4. Provide use of office equipment and supplies.

5. Provide Christian fellowship for planter and new church.

6. Provide a coach and/ or mentor for the Church Planter.

7. Provide opportunities for the Planter to share vision, needs, opportunities, etc.

8. Assist the Planter in relocating (i.e. finding a house and moving).

9. Assist the new church in outreach projects.

10. Allow the Church Planter access to Pastor’s library for commentaries, reference material, etc.

11. Provide leadership in church legal matters.

12. Send deacons to assist the new church in serving the Lord’s Supper.

13. Provide people for the new church’s core group.

14. Provide demographic, psychographic, and ecclesiographic information.

15. Hold a “Baby Church” shower for the new work’s facility.

16. Provide food for fellowships in the new church.

17. Minister to the Church Planter’s family, especially around the holidays.

18. Provide short-term “missionaries” to help with music, greeters, VBS, teaching, and advancing the new church’s strategy.

19. Provide office space, or meeting space, if needed.

20. Provide financial support. (Consider a percentage of the undesignated budget, or a set monthly amount, or a special offering taken monthly or quarterly, or a 5/52 plan wher individuals or families give $5 for 52 weeks {$260}, or instead of hiring staff, fund the Church Planter).

SEVEN DEADLY SIGNS of an unfriendly church….by Robert Beike

Though not exhaustive, these seven signs of unfriendliness are usually deadly to the possibility of guests returning or connecting to your church.

 

1. No (or unclear) directional signs inside or outside your facility

Unfortunately, familiarity often breeds contempt for strangers. Once we know the ropes we forget about those who don’t and it becomes every man, woman, and child for themselves. Put yourself in the place of a first-time guest and ask; “Do I know which door to enter?” (What if that door leads to the choir loft, or the front of the worship service? What if it opens into the Pastor’s study? Or maybe its locked and I’ll make a fool of myself.)  “Do I know where the childcare or classes are located? Where are the restrooms? Etc.

2. No greeters other than someone handing out bulletins.

Strategically placed greeters not only say “hello,” but their presence communicates to guests that they are special and you’ve been expecting them. A smiling face, a warm handshake, and a helping hand are hallmarks of a friendly church. Many churches place greeters in the parking lot, at the entrances, in the classrooms, and worship area. They not only welcome folks but also are available to walk people to where they need to go. (By the way, even regular attendees appreciate a friendly greeting.) Can’t find anyone in the church with a friendly disposition willing to greet guests?…Well, that may be another deadly sign.

3. No information about your church is readily available.

A greeter armed with brochures, or a wecome station stocked with newsletters, info cards, and Sunday School/small group information, and other opportunities to plug in or get connected is extremely valuable. It tells your guests who you are, what you’re about, and that you’d like them to be a part too.

4. No one introduces himself or herself to, or welcomes the guest(s).

You’re probably thinking that this never happens. That’s probably because you haven’t attended any churches other than your own lately. Check out the friendliness quotient of your church by enlisting a non-attendee to show up some Sunday and give you honest feedback (A kind of “mystery shopper”).

5. No one extends an invitation to lunch or to return next week.

People will connect to your church through relationships. If they can’t relate they won’t return. You will need to overcome your discomfort to make them comfortable. You will need to make others part of your life if you want them to be part of God’s kingdom. Hospitality may be the church’s most under utilized gift.

6. No general word of welcome is offered from the pulpit/platform.

What is said from the platform can make a big difference in how one feels from the pew. How the welcome is extended is critical. Normally, its not wise to call guests by name, have them stand, or stand in their honor (while they are seated). You don’t want to embarrass them in any way. In today’s culture people seek a degree of anonymity, yet don’t want to be totally ignored. Find a balance that works in your setting. Use the term “guest” rather than “visitor” and simply thank them for coming. Have registration material available in the pews/chairs and encourage them to fill it out and place in the offering. Bulletin tear-offs work well for this and can be used by everyone present to allow for prayer concerns, decisions, and other requests. A bonus would be a time and place after the service for guests to meet with the pastor and have refreshments.

7. No follow up within 48 hours of guests attending.

You have a two-day window to make a positive impression after someone attends your church. After that the possibilities of their connecting with your ministry are dramatically reduced. Send a letter, a card, an e-mail, or make a phone call to say thank you, invite them back, offer assistance, etc. In some cases a brief drop-by to leave literature or a gift is appropriate (hint: keep the car motor running and the car door open to signal the brevity of your stay). Also, if the contact person is someone other than the Pastor it is of more value. Sorry, but a non-clergy contact is often considered more genuine.

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